The Moving Finger
Excerpt from the court reporter's log, Leena Pagang et al vs MA Kavanagh, 3 September 2038. Mr Esquibel "So you can precisely locate specific memories?" Dr Edelhart "That is essentially correct." Mr Esquibel "Do you mean to say that, with your equipment, you can read minds?" Dr Edelhart "Of course not. We cannot determine the contents of a memory just from the physical structure and alignment of neurons - that would require computer processing power far beyond our present capabilities." Mr Esquibel "Then how do you locate a specific memory?" Dr Edelhart "We use specialized equipment, MRI and APET scanners, to monitor a subject's brain activity. Then we call on the subject to concentrate on a specific memory. The scanners show us where the activity takes place." Mr Esquibel "And you do this for every memory in the human brain? That would seem to be an incredible undertaking!" Dr Edelhart "True. We use this procedure only when we want to know the exact locations of a specific known memory. For most of the mapping, we learn where the memories are located and how they are interconnected, but not their content. This is done by stimulating the recall areas of the brain, and recording the resultant activity." Mr Esquibel "And how long does that take?" Dr Edelhart "Theoretically, it can be done in four hours, more or less. At this time, the practical limit is about four days. Running the scan appreciably faster than this can cause severe psychoses in the subject." Mr Esquibel "Just now you referred to "the exact locations of a memory". What do you mean by that? Is there more than one location for a specific memory? Back-up copies, so to speak?" Dr Edelhart "Not precisely. Memories are split into several components. When you as an individual remember this instant at some time in the future, your memory of my words will come from one part of the brain, your visual perceptions from another, your personal feelings from another, and so on. Bear in mind that I am simplifying, and that the matter is incredibly more complex than this. For example, your visual memory will be split between color perceptions, movement, even individual faces. Your other sensory recollections will be similarly particularized. Finally, there will be another memory that associates these scattered fragments, and assembles them into a coherent recollection of experience." Mr Esquibel "How does the technology of memory alteration figure in all of this?" Dr Edelhart "Various cases of post-traumatic stress are caused by associations with specific memories. It was felt that if the physical locations of these memories could be determined, the memories could be isolated or erased, thereby relieving the stress." Mr Esquibel "And has this been done?" Dr Edelhart "Yes, but with limited success." Mr Esquibel "What seems to be the problem? Inadequate technology?" Dr Edelhart "Our instruments are sufficiently precise and sensitive to isolate and alter specific neurons. The problem stems from our lack of understanding of the relationships between memories. You see, every experience our brains record not only alters the portions of the brain that store the components of that memory, it also alters our attitudes and feelings toward all of our previous experiences. "Simply excising a particular distressful memory does not reverse the alterations made to the remainder of the web. Changes will occur, but their nature is not entirely predictable. Often they result in feelings of anxiety, depression, sourceless forebodings, or outright paranoia. These feelings tend to be less amenable to the effects of traditional psychotherapy than the original stress symptoms." Mr Esquibel "Which brings us to Replay Therapy." Dr Edelhart "Yes. Since we can record the entire memory web, we can use new techniques for altering neural configuration to essentially rebuild the web, restoring it to its previous state. This is a brute-force approach, as it entails the loss of all memories accumulated after the recording was made. For example, my own memory web was recorded three years ago. If I were to undergo Replay Therapy, using that recording, I would lose all of the memories I had accumulated in those three years. I would essentially have lost three years of my life." Mr Esquibel "How successful is this therapy?" Dr Edelhart "In the cases in which we've been able to use it, it has been completely successful. The patient still has to come to terms with the knowledge of his or her memory loss, but this is far easier to deal with than the stresses that led us to perform the therapy. "Unfortunately, Replay Therapy has limited application, since it requires a previously made recording. Most people don't know in advance when they are likely to undergo a traumatic episode, and so recordings are not usually available. "This is not true of combat soldiers, however. In time of war, these individuals are almost certain to undergo severe stress. In many cases, their experiences will cause them significant problems, if not immediately, then in post-war life. The armed services began a general memory-web recording plan for its combat soldiers shortly before the Borneo War. Soldiers with severe post-traumatic stress problems are given the option of Replay Therapy. This is regarded as a last resort, when all other therapies have failed." Mr Esquibel "How many soldiers have you treated with this therapy?" Dr Edelhart "I'm sorry, but the number of cases is classified." Mr Esquibel "Do you know?" Dr Edelhart "Well...yes." Mr Esquibel "And the percentage of successful treatments?" Dr Edelhart "All of the treatments were successful." Mr Esquibel "Including the treatment of Lt Kavanagh?" Dr Edelhart "Yes." Mr Esquibel "And your current assessment of his condition?" Dr Edelhart "Lt Kavanagh responded positively to the therapy. He now has absolutely no memory of the eighteen months of his duty in Sarawak, or of the nine months of counseling he underwent subsequent to his discharge."